2013 School Board CandidatesProfile of four candidates for school board and their ideas about the achievement gap.
By: Meital Gewirtz, Sibley Scribe
2013 School Board Candidates
The four candidates for ISD 197 School Board took the stage at Garlough Environmental Magnet School in early October to present their visions for the next two years and to field questions from a room of parents. Listening to the questions people asked gave me some idea of the issues of most concern to parents in the school district. Several topics seemed to be on the mind of the audience, but perhaps the issue at the forefront was how to close the achievement gap present in our district. The achievement gap refers to the wide disparity in performance between students of different races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic status. Although this issue is complicated, the candidates made several suggestions on possible resolutions.
Candidate Stephanie Levine believes that the achievement gap is the number one issue of the district. She believes that this achievement gap needs to be closed by giving each student individual attention through personalized learning and more advanced technology. Only once each child’s education is addressed will the whole district start moving forward.
One matter of concern brought up by candidate John Chandler is that the basic needs of students are not being met. Hunger, for example, is a pressing issue for some Minnesota students, and it is directly linked to lower academic achievement rates. If this issue is addressed (e.g. by making sure that every student starts the school day with breakfast), the achievement gap will naturally begin to close, because underprivileged students will be able to focus on school rather than their hunger, and be at less of a disadvantage.
Candidate Matthew Klein, an avid supporter of Early Childhood Learning, insisted that the only way to close the achievement gap is to provide quality education to younger children. Before Kindergarten, at ages 3 and 4, children need to start being educated, so that upon entering kindergarten no child is far behind the rest of the class. Early childhood education must include active parent engagement. This will then set the stage for parents to remain involved as their child is growing up.
The fourth candidate is the incumbent, Dewayne Dill. At the forum, he addressed a range of issues. In terms of finance, the state only funds Kindergarten through twelfth grade education. Therefore, if Early Childhood Learning needs money, that money must come out of other funds - funds that could otherwise go to older students closer to graduating. The funding issue is a problem because of the growth in the school district. One way to fix the problem of limited space due to the demographics changing is to move boundaries. One option, known as “Option C,” moves fifth grade back into elementary school and could help with the issue of limited space, thereby giving more opportunity to the district to expand ECFE (Early Childhood Family Education) and help to close the achievement gap.
The election, taking place November 5, will result in three of these four qualified candidates being elected to the school board to help make the decisions for the district over the next two years. With a new school board, a new principal, and a new superintendent, Sibley and the district as a whole may see an era of change, paving the way for future academic success in the district.